Looking at Open Source/Windows Compatibility

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With all the talk about Microsoft "opening up" to open source also comes talk of Windows and Linux or other open source programs working together. Many efforts are focused on making Windows compatible, or interoperable, with open source.


For instance, at the LinuxWorld Expo, Open Source Development Lab CEO Stuart Cohen raised a few eyebrows -- including ours -- by predicting that Redmond would have no choice but to release a scaled-down, Linux-compatible version of Microsoft Office in the near future, if only to stop OpenOffice.org from gaining more traction in the enterprise.


Yesterday we saw a story about a group that's taking a different tack. Instead of making Windows compatible with open source, they're working to build open source software that's compatible with Windows.


internetnews.com reports that ReactOS's open source Windows "clone" is one step closer to being finished now that it has functionality that will enable users to download and run third-party applications on the network. The "clone" characterization was troubling at first, given that "clone" is usually defined as an identical copy of something, so we dug a little deeper.


According to the project Web site, ReactOS is not a Windows clone. The goal is to build an operating system -- from nothing but GPL'ed code -- that is compatible with Windows applications and drivers. And networking functionality in version 0.3.0 means developers can really test the OS and use it as a real workstation, the internetnews.com story says.


The piece intrigued us because the minds behind ReactOS turned the open source/Windows compatibility issue on its head and approached it from a completely different angle.